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Champaign County opposes request to extend wind project

Champaign County prosecutors are opposing a request from Everpower Renewables, a company that is seeking an extension to begin construction on the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Project.

Everpower had sought an extension to begin construction on the wind farm until May 28, 2018, citing ongoing legal fights that have stalled the project. But county prosecutors argued Friday that the Ohio Power Siting Board should reject the request, both because the company has already had an opportunity to request an extension and because it is separate from a second phase that the company also wants to build.

The OPSB approved the first phase of the project in March 2010, and the certificate expires in March 2015. If the certificate expires, Everpower would have to start the lengthy certification process from the beginning.

Combined, both phases of the project would build about 100 turbines across Champaign County. It would provide enough electricity to power as many as 50,000 homes per year and add about $55 million into the local economy, according to information from Everpower.

The company has argued the extension was needed because several ongoing legal fights have delayed construction of the project’s first phase. One of the conditions for approval was that it must begin a “continuous course of construction within five years.”

“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to build the first phase yet because it’s been tied up in legal appeals this whole time,” said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Everpower.

Everpower wants to build the first and second phases at the same time, which would cut costs and reduce the impact on the local community, Dagger said.

The company may have to build the projects separately, Dagger said, although it would not be ideal.

But county prosecutors argued the two projects are separate, and the company should not be allowed more time to build the first phase simply because Everpower wants to build the projects together. Extending the certificate for the first phase “undermines the application and hearing process and the requirement to protect the public interest,” prosecutors argued Friday.

If Everpower wants an extension that would allow both projects to be built together, the company should ask for an amendment that would allow for public comment, rather than simply asking the OPSB to grant an extension, said Jane Napier, Assistant Champaign County Prosecutor.

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